With recent debates about voter rights taking the spotlight in local politics, it seems that Georgia is once again engaging in voter suppression. On Oct. 30, the Georgia government flagged over 313,000 Georgians to strike from the active registration list. While election officials have performed so-called “purges” of voter registrations in the past to account for deceased voters or those who have moved to other states, many argue that these purges are nothing more than thinly veiled voter suppression.
As a result of this most recent purge, any Georgian who did not participate in the last two elections or communicate with their county’s elections board may be denied the opportunity to vote in upcoming elections. The right to vote should not be contingent on participation in past elections. Inactive voters can easily miss mailed postcard notices, and failure to respond to them should not invalidate someone’s registration. Emory’s administration should send all members of its community a notice to check whether their registration is valid or not to ensure that Georgians are able to vote if they choose to do so.
This incident isn’t isolated, as there have been other large-scale removal of voter registrations by both political parties in the state of Georgia in recent years. In July 2017, Georgia conducted a purge of voter registrations that eliminated over 500,000 records — one of the largest voter purges in U.S. history. And purging is not confined just to Georgia. Since 1997, Georgia has been one of nine states to purge voters for inactivity. Just last year, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld state rights to purge voters in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute.
Voter purges in Georgia purport to solve a problem that essentially doesn’t exist while disenfranchising thousands of eligible voters in the process. Although supporters of these purges claim that they prevent voter fraud, only 19 cases in Georgia have been investigated by state authorities over the past two decades. In Georgia’s last voter purge, 107,000 voters, or one-fifth of those removed from the rolls, were only removed because they had not voted in recent elections. The eligible voters in Georgia who had their registration canceled in that purge were disproportionately minority voters. These purges harken back to the state’s discriminatory and insidious history with voter suppression efforts targeting African American voters.
We implore everyone in the Emory community to check whether they are on the “Georgia Voters Inactive” list. To be a responsible member of a vigorous democracy is to participate in said democracy, and the simple act of verifying your registration to vote provides immense civic value to our nation.
Emory University should take the initiative to immediately encourage all the members of its community — faculty, students, staff and employees alike — to check their registration. Emory currently employs the most people of any organization operating in the state. Given the immense size of the Emory community, the administration could have a considerable impact on local and state politics if it decided to send an email out to the greater Emory community. This action is a no-brainer that could greatly change voter turnout in Georgia elections.
Check here to see if your name is included in the state’s voter purge list.
The Editorial Board is composed of Zach Ball, Devin Bog, Jake Busch, Meredith McKelvey, Andrew Kliewer, Boris Niyonzima, Nick Pernas, Kimia Tabatabaei and Grace Yang.